Professors A to Z Talk: Meal Plan

Professors A to Z | WorldWide

(durwest.com)

Profs A to Z received a question on that controversy of controversies: why students in residences have to go on the meal plan at the cafeteria.  

This was a controversial move at its start, with angry comments about the university simply looking to making money off of students. The cafeteria in general remains a not-wholly loved institution, and some question whether food is indeed available. Others raise issues about the high cost of cafeteria food and meal plans when many students are struggling financially, and when there are almost no food alternatives readily available on campus (Go to: http://www.cupe3799.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Food-Security-at-UNBC-Final-2016-Report-2.pdf for the results of student-led research on food insecurity at UNBC, and Chartwells’ perceptions of that insecurity).

And, in case you were wondering, the numbers of students on the mandatory meal plan is on the rise.  Chartwells reports the following statistics on subscriptions:

2014/2015: Roughly (~) 219 students per semester (mandatory for 1st year residence students with less than 30 credit hours)

2015/2016: ~ 309 per semester (mandatory for 1st year & 2nd year residence students with less than 60 credit hours)

2016/2017: ~ 380 per semester

2017/2018: ~ 423 for the Fall semester

So an increasing number of you are trekking your way to the “all you care to eat” cafeteria. But why? In a quest for a version of truth, Professors A to Z spoke to UNBC administrators for their explanation of the mandatory meal plan. We note that this is their statement, and that we take no responsibility for its content

UNBC Business Services, which oversees the cafeteria, writes: “An integrated Food Services and Residence operations model is common in post-secondary institutions across Canada. At UNBC, students, staff, and faculty at the Prince George campus have the opportunity to be on the All-You-Care-to-Eat meal plan, which was introduced in September 2014. The mandatory Residence Meal Plan applies to all students living in Residence that have less than 60 UNBC credit hours. This plan is designed to support students in their first years on campus at UNBC through the provision of stable food services, nutritious options, and a welcoming social environment.”

Many of us old folks remember student days of surviving on Kraft Dinner and ramen (and beer?), because we did not really know how, or care to cook and/or because we lived on tight budgets. Things are the same but also different now– while students are making the critical first adjustments to being away from home while studying endlessly (that is what you are doing, right?), the cafeteria and the meal plan can act as a culinary/survival safety net for those struggling to adjust to university life and/or just feeling overwhelmed with tasks.  

Professors A to Z leave it to you to determine what the best option is. For those who wonder about the amount of revenues that Chartwells generates from students (or their parents), via meal plans or even single meals, we leave you with this. Robert Knight, UNBC’s Vice-President Finance and Business Operations says that: “One thing to note is that a portion of food sales revenue comes back to the university to support university operations. That’s also the case for all sales for UNBC business services (bookstore, student housing, conference services, sports centre) on our campus. After subtracting actual costs for salaries and supplies, UNBC Business Services contributes $1.5 million back to the campus.”

We note that the exclusive contract for food services provision on campus will be up for bid soon. If there is anything here that students want to have a voice on (corporate ethics, food provision, on campus food pricing, mandatory meal plans), Professors A to Z suggest that it is time to step up, and get involved in making the changes that you want to see in the world, and in your cafeteria.

Professors A to Z wish you the very best this semester! Don’t forget to send us some WTF questions care of OTE, and we’ll do our best to get answers!!!